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Hidden History: Florida State vs Virginia Tech

Peter Warrick was a Hokie killer...but so was Terrell Buckley.

NCAA Football - ACC Championship - Florida State vs Virginia Tech - December 3, 2005

Spurred off the success of the top 100 play countdown, and always striving to provide the most bang for your subscription buck, Hidden History is a new series we have decided to try this season. The concept isn’t all that complicated: each week we will dust off the history books and take a peek back in time at some of the more overlooked games or aspects of the gridiron history between Florida State and its opponent. The styles may vary and some opponents obviously have more history with the Seminoles than others, but just as Coach Taggart wants his team to appreciate and embrace FSU’s rich tradition, it’s important for fans of all ages to become well-versed in our Garnet and Gold past.

Without any further adieu, let’s dive into the hidden history of FSU and Virginia Tech.

Basic Facts

All-time series record: FSU leads 23-12-1

First meeting: 1955; Doak Campbell Stadium; VT won 24-20

Most recent meeting: 2012; Lane Stadium; FSU won 28-22

Largest margin of victory: 1989; Lane Stadium; FSU won 41-7

Familiar Foes

Nearly all Seminole fans know that FSU clinched its second national title with a spectacular victory over VT in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, capping off a perfect season. And most can also point to the thrilling, upset victory over the Hokies to win the first ever ACC Championship game in 2005.

However, few FSU fans realize that, despite having not met since 2012, Virginia Tech is tied for the 4th most played opponent in FSU history with 36 prior match-ups, only behind now-annual opponents UF (62), Miami (62), and NC State (38). In fact, the Seminoles and the Hokies played more frequently in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, when both programs were independents, than they do now as conference mates, facing off all but one year between 1955 and 1980.

Bowden Ball?

Much like FSU is known for the legendary success of one long-time coach, Frank Beamer is also synonymous with Virginia Tech football. Going 2-1 against FSU as a Hokie defensive back in the 1960s, Beamer came back to Blacksburg as head coach in 1987 and soon found out that the ‘Noles had developed into an entirely different beast. Beamer’s Hokies lost to Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles four consecutive years between 1988 and 1991, with a three touchdown average margin of defeat.

But Beamer, tied as the 9th winningest coach in college football history, took more from those games besides an “L” on his record. Bobby Bowden’s miraculous resurrection of Florida State’s program happened in large part due to his aggressiveness on special teams. Fake punts and field goals, blocked punts, kick return trickery, and electric punt returners were all weapons in Bowden’s coaching arsenal. Beamer noticed this and decided to infuse a focus on special teams into his program—a focus that would one day be referred to as “Beamer Ball.

Using Beamer Ball, Virginia Tech would enjoy a remarkable rise during the 1990s. Having played in just six bowl games prior to Beamer’s arrival, the Hokies returned to the postseason in 1993 and have gone bowling every year since.

It doesn’t matter how much you insist upon yourselves, Hokies, you’re still second.

This meteoric rise from unknown independent to a top 5 team culminated in the 1999 national championship game, eerily similar to FSU’s shocking ascension from 0-11 in 1973 to a potential national title in the 1981 Orange Bowl in Bowden’s early days.

Alas, Beamer never quite figured out the Bobby Bowden puzzle. Just as Bowden appeared cursed by Hurricanes from Miami, Beamer’s tombstone might one day read, “and then he played FSU.” Bowden and Beamer squared off nine times in their careers, with Bowden walking off the field a victor all but once. And ironically enough, it was often special teams play that proved to be the difference in the games. Tommy Polley and Jeff Chaney in 1999, and Willie Reid in 2005 each made top 40 appearances in this summer’s 100 play countdown. But other FSU/VT matchups featured critical special teams’ plays as well.

Marcello Church helped the ‘Noles get a 2002 Gator Bowl win with FSU’s 96th blocked kick under Bowden:

A Hokie roughing the punter penalty in 2008 gave FSU new life, resulting in the go-ahead TD later in the drive:

Did You Know?

The longest field goal ever made by an FSU opponent was a 61-yarder by Virginia Tech’s Wayne Latimer in 1975. Rumor has it that Frank’s grandson sneezed while the ball was in the air, giving it just enough momentum to sneak over the goal post.

Blowing Off the Dust

Some plays, such as the Willie Reid punt return mentioned above, create such an indelible imprint in the moment that they are fossilized, preserved for the record, and passed down from one generation to the next with grander and fondness. Others, while important and exciting at the time, for one reason or another fail to make such a lasting impression and become forgotten, dusty books tucked away in the corner of history’s shelves, waiting to be discovered again.

Florida State legend Terrell Buckley is an owner of two of these plays. Yes, even the great ones can be lost in time.

It was 1990. Bobby Bowden stood two wins shy of his 200th victory and FSU sat at No. 2 in the AP poll. However, the visiting Hokies—25 point underdogs—were giving the Seminoles all the could handle. Late in the third quarter, Virginia Tech led 28-25 and were on the move again. Fortunately for FSU, the future Thorpe Award winner had other plans.

The electric sophomore stepped in front of the pass, high-stepped down the sideline, made several defenders miss, and crisscrossed into the endzone. The score gave FSU a lead they wouldn’t relinquish (after starting the game down 21-3) and gave Bowden his 199th victory.

One year later, the undefeated and No. 1 ranked Seminoles traveled to Orlando (Virginia Tech sold their home game to the Citrus Bowl for $800,000) to face off against the Hokies, and once again the offense struggled early. Despite being just 2-3 on the season, Virginia Tech jumped out to a 7-0 lead and held FSU scoreless for the bulk of the first quarter. With Tech driving to score again, it was Buckley who came to the rescue for the second consecutive season.

Reading the QB the whole way, Buckley grabbed one of his two interceptions on the day and raced 71 yards for the touchdown. Including this TD, FSU would score 26 of the game’s next 33 points and go from a 7-7 second quarter tie to a 33-20 win.

What’s your favorite “under-the radar” FSU memory against VT? Will Labor Day night feature yet another memorable match-up between these two programs?